Schools for today


Learning Spanish through dance

Learning Spanish through dance

Some people in the US judge the success of their local school by its performance on standardized tests, innovation by the incorporation of sophisticated electronic devices, and curriculum by the latest clever acronym.

Schools seek to meet high standards, which actually consign a large percentage of schools, teachers, and students to the category of  “failing.” Even “successful” schools look more like efficient factories to produce high scores on the way to preparation for college and career. The school is separated from community life, and often from music, art, and play. Compliance and conformity often win out over creativity and critical thinking.

The vision of early 20th century progressives of the school as the social center of the community, students as critical, socially-engaged thinkers who are capable of shaping a just and equitable society, and learning as a means to nurture good and purpose-filled lives, is often lost.

Education in Nepal faces even more problems. For some the issue is whether they have a school at all or a teacher. Books, computers, and electricity are often lacking. Even private schools are under-resourced by US standards. Yet in my short time here I’ve seen numerous examples of creative approaches to teaching and learning that build on that progressive vision, and resist the factory model.

In my next few posts I’ll share some of these Nepali examples. None are perfect (as if that were a sensible goal), and none fully challenge today’s dominant education paradigm. However, they do show how vision, dialogue, and experimentalism can make progress, even when operating within enormous constraints.

[cross-posted on Progressive Educators Network Nepal]

2 thoughts on “Schools for today

  1. Arrived just as I was deliberating over Question 2-Charter Schools in preparation for vote.
    Here’s a compelling editorial that made me think that ALL children should go to charter schools if they’re so great.

    By Jeff Jacoby GLOBE COLUMNIST NOVEMBER 01, 2016
    WHEN MASSACHUSETTS charter schools were still in their beta phase, it made sense to limit their number. As with other promising innovations — in technology, in medicine, in business — a gradual rollout of charter schools ensured that there would be ample time to monitor progress, adjust standards, fix bugs, and learn from experience.

    Massachusetts learned well. Its experiment with state-chartered public schools has proved a phenomenal success. More than two decades after the original charter law was passed, the state’s 69 charter schools (25 in Boston) are among the most effective urban public schools in America. As study after study has confirmed, the benefits of a Massachusetts charter school education are profound. They lead to improved math and language mastery, lower dropout rates, higher SAT scores, and greater college attendance.

    “The test-score gains produced by Boston’s charters,” remarks the Brookings Institution, “are some of the largest that have ever been documented .”

    So effective are public charter schools in Massachusetts that nearly 33,000 students, predominantly black and Latino, are on waiting lists to get into one. Question 2 on the statewide ballot would allow the state to approve 12 new charter schools per year. For anyone who believes in good education, for anyone who wants disadvantaged children to have a better shot at learning than they can get from chronically underperforming city schools, voting “yes” should be a no-brainer.


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